Holy Synod of Orthodox Church in America Blesses the Work of FOCUS

[Kansas City, MO] With great joy and thanksgiving, the FOCUS North America Board of Directors with the Executive Director, Fr. Justin Mathews, is pleased to announce the blessing and endorsement of its work by the Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America.

In a letter dated May 23, 2010, on the Feast of Pentecost, His Eminence Metropolitan JONAH writes:

“This organization has already done great work in the short time ithas been in existence, and we encourage everyone to visit their website at http:focusnorthamerica.org…It is only by coming together to “love one another” that we can lift a person or family from despair to hope. This is what the Church is called to do on a daily basis. FOCUS assists all in finding Christ in even the most desperate situation…It is through this group that the Orthodox in North America can be focused on the ministry of assistance to those in need.”

This season of Pentecost brings to mind the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ as they set out to preach the Good News. Likewise, FOCUS North America, with its newly operational local centers and partner ministries, humbly endeavors to emulate this witness to the Gospel teachings of Christ by serving the poor and the needy in our own communities. Strengthened by the blessing and support of the Hierarchs of the Orthodox Church in America, FOCUS North America continues to provide meals, vital life-recovery ministries and a living witness to God’s love for all mankind.

Attached to this press release is the letter from His Beatitude Metropolitan JONAH in its entirety.

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FOCUS Announces Launching of New Centers

[Kansas City, MO] The FOCUS North America Board of Directors with the Executive Director, Fr. Justin Mathews, announces the recently established local FOCUS centers – FOCUS Orange County (CA), FOCUS Gateway City (St. Louis) and FOCUS Minnesota – are operational and moving forward with services to the poor and needy in their communities.

A highlight of these recent activities was the feeding and care of 61 newly arrived refugees from Nepal as well as from Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and other West African nations. Twenty-one Orthodox volunteers led by Eric Shanburn, local director of Focus Gateway City, dedicated over 75 man-hours to prepare, deliver, serve and clean-up the meal. Volunteers also coordinated transportation, using a fleet of 5 mini-van style vehicles to shuttle guests to and from the sit-down meal that featured table service and games for the children. School supplies were distributed to children as hospitality gifts at the end of the evening. Similar events are being planned in the Twin Cities (MN) and Orange County (CA).

FOCUS Gateway City has also launched a Women’s Employment Assistance Center with a specific outreach to clients of Thrive St. Louis, adding to their crisis pregnancy program occupational assistance, counseling, job placement and a professional clothing closet. Personal wardrobe selection in preparation for secured job interviews is offered to the guests by Orthodox Christian women from the surrounding parishes.

A special feature of the FOCUS ministry in Orange County will be the “Mother Maria (Skobtsova)” Hospitality Van. It is an outgrowth of the traditional Orthodox emphasis on serving the poor through hospitality, specifically healthy, home-cooked food. A hot nutritious meal is prepared in the kitchen of one of the volunteer parishes each week and then distributed to identified areas of need by the FOCUS hospitality van and ministry team. Orthodox volunteers gather to serve the food and distribute material aid onsite to those in need while Kevin Allen, local director of FOCUS Orange County, social work professionals and trained volunteers offer companionship and other life-recovery ministries to those in need.

“The establishment of these operational FOCUS Centers is a momentous occasion in the history of Orthodoxy in America,” commented Fr. Justin Mathews, Executive Director and CEO. “Together we offer an Orthodox Christian witness in North America through intentional social outreach ministry with our most needy neighbors. These three FOCUS Centers are the first fruits of the resources that the faithful have entrusted to FOCUS North America.”

The first operational FOCUS Centers in North America are modeled in part on Reconciliation Services-FOCUS KC, the first FOCUS Center located downstairs from the FOCUS North America headquarters in Kansas City, MO. Additional FOCUS Centers are actively being developed in Central Florida, the Appalachian Region, San Diego, CA and Pittsburgh, PA. More information about the FOCUS Centers can be found online atfocusnorthamerica.org.

FOCUS North America, with a commitment to the poor, the needy and the disadvantaged in our own communities, continues to expand its mission and vision of serving God, through the cultivating of resources, development of parish ministries and the launch of FOCUS Centers across North America. Working with the Churches and offering a place for the faithful of all ages to serve regularly, FOCUS Centers provide hot, nutritious meals, vital life-recovery ministries and hope for the hopeless.

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